Once upon a time at the Clermont Club in Mayfair, chaps who were willing trade fortunes on the turn of a card from the baccarat shoe talked of revolution.
Exactly how serious Jimmy Goldsmith, John Aspinall and their gambling chums were, back in the mid-1970s era of industrial unrest, about replacing Harold Wilson’s Labour government with a Francoist military regime remains difficult to gauge.
Yet while their plottings were probably no more than a deranged amusement for Bond villain fantasists, 40 years later a modified version of that pipe dream appears.
Stuart Wheeler, the exceedingly right-wing old cove who uses his spread-betting fortune to bankroll Ukip, may not have been one of the coup d’état schemers.
But he was a member of the Clermont gang, and as the person thought to be the chief facilitator of Douglas Carswell’s defection from the Tories, we now find him playing a pivotal part in realigning British politics in a way that Goldsmith and his Referendum Party did not.
Beyond a talent for cards, his siring of the model Jacquetta, and the rabid Europhobia, little is known about Mr Wheeler. He is said to be as charming as he is shy, yet this is no time for reticence.
Mr Wheeler has used his cash to nurture a populist political movement that seems likely, assuming Mr Carswell takes Clacton, to open a schism in the British right that could change the course of history.
So it would be awfully nice if Mr Wheeler briefly jettisoned the unseen role of No 1 in SPECTRE, and popped into the sunlight to have a chat about his political beliefs.
If Ukip is the democratic force it claims to be, he might care to explain the anomaly that a populist, anti-establishment, jellied-eels revolution in Clacton was hatched in Mayfair, where he continues to wine and dine potential Tory defectors.
Will Nigel Farage call Zac Goldsmith’s bluff?
Might the delectable Ukip-Mayfair casino chain be strengthened by another link? Among those suspected of flirting with a Carswellian switch is Zac Goldsmith, son of the late Jimmy. who like his old man is known to enjoy the odd game of cards (and I once watched him playing roulette alone on the Aspinall’s cigar-smoking terrace).
While the cerebral likes of Nadine Dorries and Philip Davies have protested their loyalty to the Conservatives, despite their blood clearly running purple, Zac is the one potential renegade to admit he might be willing to jump ship – though only, he says, “if Ukip entirely embraced the environmental agenda”.
It’s quite a stretch imagining Stuart Wheeler and Nigel Farage agreeing to that, while the Ukip electorate remains unpersuaded that climate change exists. But if they mischievously announced an electoral pact with the Green Party, it would be intriguing to see how Zac responded to the calling of his bluff.
Boris is too smart to fall into Clacton trap
These are not words that come easily, but I feel a stab of sympathy for Boris Johnson.
Whether or not they are acting in league with the Tory high command, the Telegraph’s Peter Oborne and the Spectator editor Fraser Nelson – two influential Tory pundits – have called on that good man Boris to come to the aid of the party by taking on Douglas Carswell.
They point out that he would be the Tory saviour were he to kill the Ukip momentum by winning Clacton, which is true; and they affect to regard it as his duty, which is not true.
With an opinion poll showing a 44-point Carswell lead in Clacton, the momentum Messrs Cameron and Osborne really want killed, you must suspect, is Boris’s.
While he is far too smart to walk into such a blatant trap, it’s a bit rich of them to lay the ground to paint Boris as a selfish coward for refusing a kamikaze mission that would only benefit Ukip and George Osborne’s leadership ambitions. Poor show.
Nothing like a good old-fashioned exposé
Anyone concerned that The Sun on Sunday has moulded itself into a depressingly good-natured and unprurient successor to the News of the World will have been reassured by yesterday’s splash. It concerned the “gay drug romps shame” of the broadcaster Paul Ross.
Pictured looking lost in guilt beside his distressed wife, Mr Ross “confessed” to a mephedrone-fuelled relationship with a man. How the paper came by this interview is anyone’s guess.